'Horns fall easy prey to Vikings

Photo By Kristen Luther
Johnson County quarterback Jeff Brinker tries to shake a tackle.

By Michelle Pope
BRISTOL--In the shutout game between Johnson County and conference leader Tennessee High, the Vikings tried for an early field goal, and Mike Atwood pulled another trick out of the hat involving Longhorn kicker Ian Prudhomme.
Tennessee High maintained their grasp on the conference lead by shutting out the Longhorns with 35 points at the Stone Castle Thursday night.
After Viking kicker Zack Edwards sent the kickoff flying into the endzone, Johnson County failed to make their first down due to the negative yards that Tennessee High dealt them. Prudhomme punted from the Longhorn ten to the forty-eight, but the Vikings marched twenty yards in eight plays.
Edwards trotted out again to attempt to put early points on the board for Tennessee, but the field goal lazily sailed to the right of the goalposts.
On Johnson County's possession, the Longhorn line shoved the Vikings back enough to squeeze in a yard apiece from Daniel Cranford and Tony Smith. Quarterback Jeff Brinker hit Nathan Paisley for a seven-yard pass, bringing Johnson County just a yard shy of their first down.
Atwood sent Prudhomme in as the Vikings prepared to catch the punt, but instead, they found Daniel Cranford rushing at them with a six-yard carry, while Prudhomme swung his foot at an imaginary ball.
A dose of Cranford and Smith moved the Longhorns thirty-two more yards before the first quarter ended. Brinker opened up the second quarter with a pass that Tennessee's Maurice Whitten plucked from the air with an interception, racing away from the pack on a fifty-eight yard touchdown run. Edwards' extra point kick split the goalposts, putting seven points up for Tennessee.
"(You're) thrilled when your defense can score points for you," said Viking coach Greg Stubbs. "We kind of got the swing of the momentum tonight with our defense scoring for us in the first half."
Bruised from the Vikings' score, Johnson County retaliated when Cranford returned Edwards' kick for thirty-eight yards before Edwards brought him down.
Two plays later, the Viking defense came to call again. Eric White leaped in front of Nathan Paisley to intercept a twenty-yard pass from Brinker. Halfback Major Canty took the ball fifteen yards on the next play, breaking away down the sideline, and almost headed for paydirt before Shane Humphrey stopped him.
Viking quarterback Marcus Nidiffer threw a pass to Nick Howington that stretched into thirty-five yards, placing Tennessee only eight yards from scoring. A mix of Brandon Anderson and Canty brought the Vikings to the one-yard line, but on the fourth down, Stubbs' team decided to go for it, and missed.
"We kind of stymied a little bit offensively," Stubbs said. "I was a little upset when we didn't stick it in when we were down on the goal line."
However, not much damage occurred. As the Longhorns tried to come back out of their own red zone, the snap was fumbled. Zack Morton recovered the ball for the Vikings after it rolled in the endzone, scoring another touchdown for Tennessee High. Edwards kicked another PAT, bringing the Vikings' score up to 14.
"That hurt us, giving up the plays like that," said Longhorn head coach Mike Atwood. "The defense scored, and then they had an eighteen-yard field to go. Their offense only had to run eighteen yards to get three touchdowns. That took the wind out of us, and our boys are a little beat up. We just got beat up awfully bad. They're a good team."
Before Johnson County could make another significant move out of their end of the field, they fumbled the ball again, which ended up in the hands of Viking defensive end Matt Lane on the Longhorn twenty. A fourteen-yard carry by Anderson helped put the Vikings two yards out of the endzone, and Lane took it home for the score. Edwards kicked his third extra point of the night, and the half ended with Tennessee leading 21-0.
"It's all about - and we talk about this every week in practice; offense, defense - it's all about making the field short for yourself, and we were able to do that tonight," said Coach Stubbs. "It's like a momentum thing. When you can play midfield or better, both offensively and defensively, it makes it easier to call defense, and makes it easier to call offense."
Brandon Anderson began the second quarter on another positive note for the Vikings, returning Prudhomme's kickoff for fifty-two yards. Nidiffer followed through with a twenty-one-yard pass to Howington.
Several plays later, Anderson followed guard Drew Kennedy nine yards for Tennessee's fourth touchdown. Edwards did his job again, bringing the Viking score up to 28.
Cranford returned the Viking kickoff for twenty yards, but a holding penalty pinned the Longhorns back ten yards. They were soon forced to punt, and fumbled. Ryan Fabbri recovered the fumble for Tennessee.
Johnson County's defense kept the Vikings from making their next down, and Tony Smith took the ball out of Johnson County's field on a thirty-yard rush. However, they failed to make the third set of downs, and after the Vikings returned the punt for twenty-eight yards, they were once again in scoring position.
A case of deja vu occurred as Lane took the ball into the endzone for the Vikings again, and Edwards kicked his fifth PAT, pushing Tennessee up to 35-0.
"They wanted a shutout, and they were playing for it," Stubbs said of his team. "We weren't as crisp on doing some things like running the football, but I thought at times, our offensive line blocked well. They were up in the box, stacked on us, and we were still able to run the ball between the tackles."
In the fourth quarter, Smith made a forty-one yard carry for the Longhorns, and Jeremy Gerace walked across the pileup on a five-yard push to make the down, but eventually the Longhorns gave up possession, and the Vikings finished up the game.
"We were able to come back out the second half and establish our offense and do some things, throw it out to three (Nick Howington) and let him do his thing, and score some offensively," said Stubbs. "We didn't play a great game tonight, but we played a good game."
"We felt confident coming in," Atwood said of Johnson County's attitude before the game. "We felt like we could play well. We just didn't execute the offense, and the defense didn't play very good. We felt confident we would have a chance. We have to regroup, and try to get ready for next week."